For places 7-8th: Jug Adriatic Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO) v AN Brescia (ITA) 14-10
Both teams had to work on mentality before the last game of the season – Jug arrived at the game after a humiliating defeat against Olympiacos, while the Italians had to swallow the bitter pill of losing both their previous matches by a single goal and approaching a game for the 7th place after having finished as group winners. Since the inauguration of the F6/8 format in 2014, no first ranked side were facing the prospect of finishing last in the finals…
Brescia seemed to have geared up to avoid that blame and after 2-2 Stefano Luongo hit two in 44 seconds towards the end of the opening period, both from action. However, Jug’s youngsters stepped up in the second and in four minutes they netted three man-ups in a row while Brescia missed two at the same time. A time-out was needed to make order at their end, and it helped, Christian Presciutti sent the ball home from a 6 on 5 – it was an equaliser and also meant that Brescia’s legend would finish his career leaving a mark on the scoresheet. Still, his mates’ concentration level dropped further as the Croats could add two from action in the remaining two minutes to take a 7-5 lead, after netting five goals in the second period.
Brescia’s players focus did not sharpen in the third either, missed some fine chances including a 2 on 1 counter where Toni Popadic came up with a huge save and made some more before Presciutti finally put the ball behind him to halt their scoreless run after 7:57 minutes. It only reduced the gap to two as Ivan Vukojevic sent the ball home from the perimeter at the middle of this quarter. Jug missed their lonely man-up soon, but Popadic’s posted his 12th save in the following man-down and Vukojevic netted a smart one from sharp angle with 0:05 remaining, so Jug turned onto the last chapter with a massive 9-6 lead in hand.
A flurry of goals kicked off the last period, Konstantinos Kakaris hit a great one from the centre, Jacopo Alesiani replied from a man-up. Kakaris then tipped another one in with some luck, after a rebound in a man-up and Ivusa Burdejez had an easy put-away in a 6 on 4 for 12-7. Tommaso Gianazza pulled one back from the centre, but Kakaris was set up on the 2m line as he reset the five-goal difference. While Jug went 3/3 at this stage in extra, this was the 6th goal in a three-minute span. Brescia’s defence fell apart, Marko Zuvela also scored from action for 14-8 and the game was over. Brescia netted two lately which were still too few to erase the bad taste they might have had at the end of their completely derailed run in Belgrade.
Jug managed to erase some bad memories and also avoided repeating their all-time low rank from last year when they finished 8th – at the same time Brescia dropped to the last place after a third straight defeat, not an ending they thought of upon arriving at Belgrade after winning their group.
How they saw it
Vjekoslav Kobescak, coach, Jug
“It’s good to finish the season on a high note, especially for this young team. We had two good games here, we couldn’t win the first one against Barceloneta, then yesterday was a disaster but we came back today and played really well, even though we were without three key players from the rotation, but the young ones had more opportunities and they were good. I hope that in some years they could play on this high level, with Jug of course. Our goals are the same, to be here, among the top teams. For this season we reached our goals by qualifying to this event. Now we have to go back and analyse what was good and what was not but overall, I’m satisfied with the team.”
Sandro Bovo, coach, Olympiacos
“After losing the quarter-final it wasn’t easy for the team, for the players to play these two matches. We played good matches, yesterday and today too, the result was not that important.”
Konstatinos Kakaris, player, Jug
“Our first game in the Final 8 was really good. We really tried a lot and gave everything we had in that match against Barceloneta, and I am happy with the game we displayed that day and for my teammates. Our match against Olympiacos was really bad. Psychologically, it was difficult to find motivation and obviously we didn’t succeed with that. Today ‘s game was good. We played with passion, and we wanted to finish the season with a victory. Jug was my first experience abroad and it was great. Everybody helped me a lot and I became a better person and a player because of it. It is something that I will remember forever, and you never know what the future brings…”
Marko Zuvela, player, Jug
“I am satisfied that we have closed this tournament with a victory. It’s always good to finish the season that way. We would have preferred to be playing for a medal at least here. Still, it feels nice to start the national team summer like this. We are satisfied. Without Fatovic and Krzic we almost made it to the semi-finals. With them, we would have had a bigger rotation and we could have been fighting for a medal. On the other hand, our young players were given a chance to see what it feels like to play against the best players in the world.”
Christian Presciutti, captain, Brescia
“I felt very emotional before the match when I realised that this will be my last game. We wanted to finish the season with a victory. Even more, my teammates wanted it to be a present for me but today we were up against a really good team like Jug. They played really smart today, and in this kind of matches it is not so unusual to lose concentration at times. All in all, this is not the most important thing that happened in the last few days. Once we lost in the quarter-finals, it didn’t really matter that much. I had a beautiful celebration at home in Brescia last week after our victory against Jug. In fact, they wanted a re-match. It was a really nice celebration. I said goodbye to my home crowd there. I am satisfied with my water polo journey and everything that it had bought me. I met so many friends thanks to water polo. I have become the man and person I am today thanks to water polo. I met my family and my wife there. Water polo became part of my life when I was very young and it will continue to be so forever. I would like to become a water polo coach and I will start as an assistant coach for the youth national team. I am looking forward to learning and growing with them by conveying the passion that I have for this sport, and which has carried me up to the age of forty as a player, to the next generations. Because especially in Italy, we have a lot of young talents who can grow to become the future national team members and ambassadors of Italian water polo.”
Niccolo Gitto, player, Brescia
“Today’s game didn”t really mean much. Still, it would have been nice to say goodbye to our captain with a victory. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to show the water polo we have been displaying throughout the whole season. We are disappointed but we have to start thinking about the next season.”